A BANK clerk who persistently plundered the accounts of four elderly customers to solve her financial problems has been jailed.
A court heard that it was a case of pride going before a fall as the young mum-of-two had got into debt after her partner lost his job.
He was too proud to obtain benefits and she was too proud to ask for help.
Helen Holding’s distraught partner wiped away tears during the hearing and as she was led to the cells she turned to the public gallery and he told her, “I’m sorry,” before he burst out of the courtroom in tears.
Sentencing the 32-year-old to six months’ imprisonment for the £27,000 thefts, the judge, Recorder John Bromley- Davenport, QC, described it as “a sad case in many ways.”
He told Holding: “I accept you bitterly regret what you did and I accept that you did it not for greed or desire to lead a lavish lifestyle but simply because of the financial situation you found yourself in and felt it was impossible to confide in those who would have helped you.”
He said she had targeted elderly people, one with dementia, and although it was inevitable she would eventually be found out she had got away with it for three years.
“The effect on the victims of your crime and the view that would be taken by other people when people of this age are preyed upon by a bank employee who should be trusted does not permit anything other than an immediate custodial sentence,” said the judge.
Holding, of City Road, Wigan, pleaded guilty to four offences of fraud by abuse of position between 2010 and January this year.
Martine Snowden, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that Holding had been employed as a cashier at Lloyds TSB for 12 years. Her dishonesty came to light in January this year when a woman queried a £100 debit from her 92-year-old grandmother’s account.
Investigations revealed suspicious transactions on that account linked to the code used by Holding and when CCTV footage was checked it showed that at the time of the most recent transaction no customer was at the counter.
There were also suspicious transactions involving a 93-year-old male customer with dementia and again the CCTV showed no customer was present when the most recent transaction had been made.
Miss Snowden said that a total of nine transactions on his account involving about £950 and 29 on the woman victim’s. Holding had been taking about £100 or £200 each time from the two customers at the Pemberton branch.
When interviewed she admitted the thefts and said she had done the same thing on the accounts of two other customers, aged 80 and 88 at the Skelmersdale branch where she also worked.
She apologised and said she had done it because of debts and offered to repay it. The bank has meanwhile reimbursed the accounts.
David Achilles, in mitigation, said it had been desperate behaviour by a desperate woman. Her partner came out of work and “was too proud to claim benefit and she was too proud to seek help when things started to go wrong.”
He explained that her mother had put down the £60,000 deposit on her home and she and her mum had a £60,000 joint mortgage with Lloyds TSB and she did not want her mother to find out she was struggling to pay it.
She started taking the money to “keep the wolves from the door” but was surprised how long it had gone on. She now has two part time jobs at a restaurant and the DW Stadium in Wigan which she will lose if jailed, he said.
Her partner, who is now working, accepts he was “part of the problem in taking the view he did. He did not fully appreciate his loss of employment on the family finances and unfortunately he carried on as normal.”
He said that her parents are going to pay back the bank tomorrow and on the understanding she sells the house and repays them, added Mr Achilles.